How to select a safe car is an important skill many people may not know. People often don’t realize how this simple decision can affect their health and future healthcare costs. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among people age one to thirty-four and the third leading cause among forty-five to fifty-four-year-olds. The most common cause of unintentional injuries is motor vehicle accidents. In 2002, the death rate for motor vehicle accidents was triple the HIV death rate and 60 percent of the breast cancer death rate.
Clearly all vehicles are not created equal. I know this from personal experience having simply walked away from a serious accident. The car I was riding in was my soon to be father-in-law’s prized Mercedes-Benz. The car skidded on an oil patch on a very busy LA freeway, ran up a hillside, and flipped on its side. The car was a total loss. What was clear to me was that the engineering made a difference between my financee and I walking away, very shaken, but not injured, as opposed to being seriously injured or killed. The passenger compartment, while it gave slightly, stay intact protecting us. We’ve all see horrific pictures of motor vehicle accidents and often this compartment is obliterated. Was it because no amount of engineering could have overcome the tremendous forces involved in an accident or simply because safety wasn’t paramount to the design?
Although all vehicles seem strong with their metal frames, there are tangible engineering and design differences in motor vehicles. The outcome could be life or death. The result could be walking away from an accident or a life filled with disability.
Thinking critically about what you drive can impact your health. In fact, one study showed that the declining death rate in motor vehicle accidents over the past decade was not due to better drivers or improved roads, but to safer cars.
Where to look? Start with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Be sure to check the model year of the vehicle you are interested in. Surprisingly, the safety of a particular make can vary annually.
Once you've found the vehicle that fits your criteria of safety, then you can move on and focus on how to improve the rest of your health by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and only drinking alcohol is moderation.